Monday, June 26, 2017

Cauliflower "Bread Sticks"

You know all those recipes out there for cauliflower crust "pizza" and "bread sticks?" They're purported to be great for people on Paleo or low-carb diets, and they're also gluten free. I'm here to tell you that I tried it, and it actually works. However, don't be fooled that they taste anything remotely like a bread product. They are more like a quiche that's been run over by a steamroller.

That said, they are pretty tasty, especially if you already like cauliflower, as I do.

I'd say if you were going to make a pizza crust, aim for multiple small pizzas. The larger the crust, the more likely the middle will be soggy and break off. The outer edges of my crust were lovely and sturdy, but the center was floppy. Had I topped it with anything other than cheese, it would have slid off onto my plate.

Cauliflower Breadsticks or Pizza Crust

1 medium head cauliflower
4 eggs
3 cups shredded cheese of your choice (divided use) (I used cheddar, Parm, and feta)
Seasonings of your choice (I used a teaspoon of Old Bay, plus some fresh thyme and basil)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut the cauliflower into small florets and whiz into bits in a food processor. There should be about 4 cups of cauliflower bits. Put them in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and nuke for ten minutes. Remove from microwave and allow to cool 10 minutes. Take off the plastic and add the eggs and 2 cups of cheese, stirring well to combine. Add seasonings and stir again. Taste for salt and add a pinch if you think it needs it.

Prepare two baking sheets with a parchment liner. Pat half the mixture onto each sheet, shaping it into one or more rectangles or circles about the thickness of a pizza crust. Bake for 25 minutes. For a crispier product, flip the crust and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, top with additional cheese, and bake again until cheese melts, about 5 more minutes.

Cut into sticks and serve with dipping sauce of your choice. Or top as if it were a pizza, with sauce, pepperoni, and more veg. Put back in the oven for a few more minutes to warm everything up and melt the cheese.

Serves 4-6

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Flashback Friday - Korean Pork Meatball Tacos

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on May 28, 2014.
The flavors of Korea and Mexico work well together, disparate though they may be. Cuisines that seem more similar, like Indian and Mexican, which share the use of strong flavors like cumin and cilantro, are almost never combined. Have you ever seen a chicken tikka taco or vindaloo burrito? Why not? But there is a proliferation of bulgogi burritos and tacos garnished with kimchi in the current culinary world. And they work.

I've fallen in love with making my own corn tortillas, so tacos are a common occurrence in our house. Ground pork called out to become meatballs, and because we had a tub of the Korean red pepper and soybean paste called gochujang in the fridge, they fell into the whole Korean-Mexican melting pot. While I also flavored a bit of sour cream with some gochujang, sesame oil, and sugar to make a sauce, the rest of the elements, avocado, cilantro, and roasted corn salsa, were more likely to be found in a traditional taco. And they all worked deliciously together.

Korean Pork Meatballs

For meatballs:
1.15 lb ground pork (amount approximate...some packs may weigh slightly more or less)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 tablespoon gochujang
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying

For glaze:
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon gochujang
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

To make meatballs: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Form 30 small meatballs.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan. Add meatballs and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel-lined plates. Wipe out frying pan.

To make glaze: Place ketchup, vinegar, soy, sugar, and gochujang in a sauce pot and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.

Place drained meatballs into cleaned pan. Pour over the bbq sauce and stir well to coat. Heat over medium heat until sauce coats the meatballs like a glaze. Sprinkle sesame seeds over and toss to coat.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Indian Ceviche

It's Fancy Food Show season again and food samples have been showing up on our doorstep. A box of popcorn products was eagerly anticipated particularly because it contained three bags of Masala Pop. I had tasted Masala Pop's Rose Caramel flavor at the show last year and was excited that not only did it taste delightfully (yet subtly) of rose, but it was also a kettle corn-style product that wasn't overly sweet. The package we received from the company also included Chai Caramel, with true sweet-spice chai flavors in a light caramel glaze, and Savory Coconut, which has a lovely turmeric/coconut thing going on.

I decided that the Savory Coconut would be smashing on ceviche. What? You've never had popcorn on your ceviche? It's a popular accompaniment to the dish in Ecuador. It gives the ceviche a nice crunch.

If you can get impeccably fresh shrimp, then you can probably make this dish the traditional way, by "cooking" the protein with the citrus juice alone. However, as most shrimp available are IQF (individually quick frozen) and who knows how many times they may have thawed and refrozen by the time they get to your house, I recommend lightly cooking the shrimp first with heat. I poached mine in salted water just until they were pink, iced them down immediately, and popped them in the fridge until I was ready to assemble the dish.

Because the popcorn had Indian flavors, I decided to do the same with the ceviche by adding pinches of cumin, garam masala, and ginger. Not a lot, just enough to be noticed. Coconut milk might have been a nice addition, but I didn't want to detract from the coconut flavor in the popcorn. Feel free to add a few dribbles if you are so inclined.

This makes a lovely appetizer, lunch, or even a light summer supper with a green salad and some bread.

Shrimp Ceviche with Indian Flavors

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
Juice of 2 limes (divided use)
1/2 lb 31-40 shrimp
3 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped tomato
1 tablespoon finely minced tender cilantro stems
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch garam masala
Pinch ground ginger
Tabasco or hot sauce to taste
Cilantro leaves
Masala Pop popcorn

Combine the red onion and the juice of half a lime in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Cover and set aside for at least an hour.

Poach shrimp until just pink in simmering salted water. Chill shrimp in an ice bath and refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove shells and chop shrimp into dime-sized pieces. Combine with the peppers, tomatoes, cilantro stems, and spices. Drain the onion and add to the shrimp, along with the juice from the remaining 1 and 1/2 limes. Taste for seasoning and add salt, a few shakes of hot sauce, and additional pinches of the spices if you feel it needs them. Refrigerate until cold, about an hour.

Serve garnished with cilantro and Masala Pop popcorn.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Waterfront Kitchen Mixes Old and New

We 've written about Waterfront Kitchen on numerous occasions, both on this blog and in our books. The incredible view from their airy dining room, the emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients in their cuisine, and the friendly atmosphere have always been a constant. The menu itself has changed over the years as each new chef has brought his own personal spin on the restaurant's traditions. Chef Cyrus Keefer, who's become well known in Baltimore for his inventive cuisine, is the current chef at Waterfront Kitchen and he brings a whole hosts of new ideas to the menu. We were eager to check it out. 

The Minx started off with the Strawberry & Basil cocktail made with basil vodka and muddled strawberries. I've finally come around to drinking gin in the summertime so I ordered the gin-based Cucumber & Lavender. Both drinks were light and refreshing for a warm day.

While our plan was to focus on some of the more popular dinner menu options, Chef Keefer had put together a special tasting menu for a group coming to the restaurant that night and he wanted us to sample some of the items. The pork belly pizzette was served on a soft crust topped with romanesco cauliflower, two kinds of cherries, and edible flowers from the BUGS greenhouse down the street. As we've mentioned in other posts, Waterfront Kitchen gets a great deal of their fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables from the Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students (BUGS) Greenhouse, which is on the Living Classrooms campus on Caroline Street. Kids from low-income neighborhoods develop social, academic, and creative skills by learning how to grow food. They also sell some of the produce at an annual farmers’ market event.

We fell in love with Chef Keefer's calamari when he was working at Birroteca, and it's still amazingly tender in this latest incarnation, served with baba ganoush made black by squid ink and a green olive insalada. The delicious house-marinated green olives are also available as a separate dish with some hummus, greens, and flatbread. Also on the dish are some of the edible flowers from the BUGS Greenhouse which bring a floral dimension to the dish I've never experienced before.

These shumai-style dumplings held a mixture of confit chicken and housemade 'nduja, a spicy, spreadable, pork salami. N'duja has become a new favorite thing of mine and this combination, nestled in a tender dumpling wrapper, took me to my happy place. At first glance, I thought the flecks in the sauce were grains of rice, but it turned out to be chopped up pieces of that tender calamari we love so much, Chef Keefer never stops inventing.

Okay, so now we're moving on to the regular dinner menu. We wanted to focus on the tried-and-true sorts of dishes that summer tourists might order, so we started with the clam chowder. This version of the New England staple has a bisque-like miso-enriched broth. The clams are served in their shells, and chunks of sunchoke, also called Jerusalem artichoke, stand in for the potatoes.

We had to try the crab cakes because - Baltimore - and we were intrigued by Chef Keefer's pronouncement that the cakes have no filler in them whatsoever. What they do have is plenty of lump crab and just the right amount of seasoning and another element that we won't give away. The result is a meaty yet light crab cake that's quite flavorful. The cakes were served with deviled asparagus, a subtle chorizo vin blanc, and a romesco sauce made with shishito peppers.

Our final entree was another New England classic, the lobster roll. The roll itself was the classic toasted split-top hot dog bun. From there, things take an eclectic turn as green curry and avocado sauce redolent of kaffir lime are tossed into the hefty pile of lobster meat and delicate pea shoots are sprinkled on top. Served with a side of French fries, this is a lobster roll that is a cut above.

Waterfront Kitchen's pastry chef, Kelsey Willis, is only 21 years old but she shows a finesse with desserts that belies her youth. Our dessert had squares of moist chocolate cake filled with a beer-flavored custard all enrobed in a classic chocolate ganache. Housemade Old Bay-seasoned caramel corn is sprinkled on top and the plate is decorated with white chocolate tinted in yellow and red, making the dessert resemble an abstracted Maryland flag. On top of all that, it tasted great.

We're happy that Chef Keefer is working at Waterfront Kitchen these days, giving us an excuse to eat there more often. Not that we need an excuse, it's just that we don't get to Fells Point as often as we should.

Waterfront Kitchen
1417 Thames St.
Baltimore, MD 21231
(443) 681-5310
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Rhubarb Mostarda

I picked up some rhubarb at the farmers' market a couple weeks ago, because I like to buy rhubarb. I never know what to do with it once I have it though. I never buy enough for pie, and even if I did, never remember to buy strawberries. Sometimes I just boil the rhurbarb with sugar for a while and call it a jam. This time I wanted to be different and try something savory. I saw something called rhubarb mostarda on a restaurant menu; a google search brought up a recipe from a blog called the Joy of Cooking. That recipe claimed to be more of a chutney than a true mostarda, and I wanted something more similar to the pear mostarda I had eaten at Momofuku Ssam Bar. That is, something that tasted very much of the source fruit, but also very much like mustard. I basically just eliminated the golden raisins called for by the recipe and changed the other proportions a bit. I also used brown mustard seeds because that's all I could find in the pantry, despite swearing that I recently bought a fairly large quantity of yellow mustard seeds for another project. (I'll probably find them when I don't need them and then misplace them again.)

What did I serve the mostarda with? Braised pork belly. I had some sliced pork belly languishing in the freezer and figured it was best to just use it up. There's really no recipe here, just guidelines: brown the pork belly on all sides. Add enough chicken stock to cover and then season it as you wish. I added a tablespoon of brown sugar, a couple glugs of soy sauce, a half-teaspoonful of grains of paradise (you can use regular peppercorns), a bay leaf, a clove of garlic, a bit of fresh thyme, some onion powder, and some smoked paprika. Cover and cook at a low simmer  until very tender, 3-4 hours. Remove the meat from the pot and reduce the sauce until it's thick and syrupy. Add the pork back to the sauce and turn to coat.

I also made some simple polenta as a base, and cooked some frozen peas (what? you think I'm going to shell peas? if I could even find them now), added a knob of butter, and lots of fresh chopped herbs from our newly-planted garden (mint, basil, chives, thyme flowers).

Personally, I think this turned out great. I should do the pork belly thing more often. It's dead simple, just throw stuff in a pot and cook it, and it comes out restaurant-quality. The fat was juicy, the meat was moist, completely yummy. And the tangy mostarda was a perfect foil.

Just a really nice dinner all around, and despite the fancy looks, not a lot of effort. I even got Mr Minx to trim and chop the rhubarb for me.

Rhubarb Mostarda (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

1 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons water

Put all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook until rhubarb is soft and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Stir regularly to prevent rhubarb from sticking (mine didn't, but YMMV.)

Store in a covered jar in the fridge. Makes about 1/2 - 3/4 cup.

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Flashback Friday - Coconut Macaroon Cake

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on May 19, 2014.
I'm a huge fan of coconut. I can remember when my Dad used to impulsively buy sweetened coconut flakes and we'd tear it open and eat the stuff straight out of the bag with our hands. (Each of us have always had a huge sweet tooth.) Mounds and Almond Joy were among my favorite candies, and I looooved macaroons. (That's macaroons, with a ROON, not macarons, with a RON, although many pronounce the latter like the former. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They are completely different confections.) Flipping through the April issue of Martha Stewart Living I found a recipe for a coconut cake that combines both cake and macaroon and immediately decided it would be the perfect dessert for Easter dinner.

The only problem? Mr Minx hates the texture of grated coconut. He says it's like eating plastic shavings. He does like the flavor of coconut, however, so he said he'd force himself to eat it if he had to. Now that's a good husband.

The way the recipe read, it seemed like it would be a coconut-flavored cake layer topped with a layer of macaroon. I figured he could just cut off the top and eat the bottom. Alas, the macaroon layer was heavy and sunk down into the batter, which, containing leavening, rose up and around the shredded coconut. So while there were cake-y bits within the cake, the shredded coconut pretty much permeated everything.

He ate it anyway, and I promised that I'd try it again, omitting the macaroon-y bit altogether. The bottom part, flavored with both coconut oil and Coco Lopez, might be an interesting base for a pineapple upside-down cake. Or just fine on it's own.

Here's the cake recipe, from the Martha Stewart web site.

I didn't have heavy cream on hand to make her recommended chocolate sauce. I wanted something runnier anyway, that could be made well in advance and didn't need heating to loosen up before drizzling. I found David Leibovitz' recipe online and added some sour cream and vanilla, just because I felt it needed more flavor.

Chocolate Sauce (adapted from David Leibovitz)

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream

Whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it starts to simmer, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted. Whisk in the vanilla and sour cream and allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Drizzle over cake. Or squeeze directly into your mouth--I won't tell.

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Thai Beef Salad

It's not even Summer yet and we've already had some sizzling weather on the East Coast. When the weather is warm and I don't want to spend a lot of time fussing with dinner, I resort to gazpacho and salads so I can stay out of a hot kitchen. When I got word of the Keystone Beef recipe contest in honor of National Beef Month, I knew a quick salad was the way to go. It helped that the rules require the dish be made in 30 minutes or less, but that was going to happen anyway because the main ingredient was pre-cooked meat. Yeah yeah, I see you wrinkling your nose at the thought of canned, pre-cooked, beef. I felt the same way, but then I tasted Mr Minx's Emergency Chili made with the same product, and realized that canned beef isn't all that different from canned tuna. It's convenient and tasty and cuts down on cooking time in a big way.

This dish cooks for about 12 minutes, and chopping takes maybe another 10, but the flavor payoff makes it seem like it took much longer. I served the salad over a pile of baby spinach and arugula, but you can scoop it into cups of lettuce, if you'd like, or even eat it over rice or pasta.

Thai Beef Salad

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1 can Keystone beef, drained
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 scallions, chopped
Salt to taste
Handful of torn mint leaves
Handful of cilantro
French fried onions
Fresh greens of your choice

Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and sambal in a bowl. Place the beef in a sauce pan and warm over medium heat. Stir in the sauce. Cook for ten minutes. Add the tomatoes, carrot, and scallions and stir. Cook an additional minute or two. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if necessary. Stir in most of the mint and cilantro, leaving a few pieces for garnish.

Serve the beef warm or at room temperature over a pile of greens. Garnish with leftover mint and cilantro and some of the french fried onions.

Serves 3-4 as an appetizer or two as a main dish.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, June 02, 2017

Flashback Friday - Pulled Pork with Peaches

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on March 28, 2014.
The February issue of Saveur magazine has several interesting recipes for peaches, which seems odd when there's snow on the ground. But canned peaches can be just as tasty; indeed the focus of the article was canning. And while I don't do any canning myself, Del Monte, Libby's, etc., does.

When I spotted a relatively inexpensive pork shoulder at the grocery store, I decided we needed to try the peach-braised pulled pork. Once home, I realized the recipe called for a 3 lb boneless shoulder, and we had just purchased one that weighed 8.5 lbs, bone-in. It also called for whole cloves, smoked paprika, and lager beer. We had ground cloves, no paprika, and a couple bottles of my brother-in-law's home brewed ale. So I do what I always do--make substitutions. Allspice works just as well as cloves when it comes to matching with peaches, and as long as the beer wasn't stout, it would be fine. As for the paprika--I could have sworn I had a big bag of it in the cupboard, but I suppose I'll have to order more from Penzey's or the Spice House. There's really no substitute, so I just skipped it completely.

I knew from the get-go that 3 hours wouldn't be enough cooking time for the porky behemoth we bought--but what would be?

Three hours into cooking, the meat was cooked but still a little tough. I decided to hack the shoulder into chunks, to help it along. By four+ hours, I was getting impatient and hauled the thing out of the oven. It was plenty tender, but not tender enough to shred with two forks. Instead, I chopped it up with a big knife, all the while sampling it to make sure it was good. I'm all about quality control.

The magazine calls for using only half a cup of the pan juices. There were at least 2 cups, and it seemed like a real waste to toss it (and the onions, garlic, and peaches within it) because it tasted so rich and porky. So I emulsified the whole mess with a stick blender, added half a cup of brown sugar and the rest of the peaches and peach syrup, and boiled it vigorously for about fifteen minutes. And instead of serving it with sauteed onions and peach jam, I made some slaw with brussels sprouts, because that's what we had.

It was great, but we had pork for days and days. And days. Not complaining, but 8.5 lbs is a lot of pork for two people.

Peach-Braised Pulled Pork, adapted from Saveur

3 tbsp olive oil
3-8 lb boneless pork shoulder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large yellow onion, cut into quarters
2 (12-oz.) bottles beer
1 (1-qt.) jar canned peaches in syrup, drained or use store-bought
1/2 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325°.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a baking pan or dutch oven large enough to hold your meat.

Season pork with salt and pepper. Brown meat on all sides, about 10–12 minutes. Remove meat from pan and add allspice, bay leaves, garlic, and onion to pan; cook until browned, 6–8 minutes. Add beer; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until reduced by half, 10–12 minutes.

Return pork to pan and add half the peaches. Bake, covered, until pork is tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into pork reads 190°, 3–5 hours. Let cool. If pork is tender enough, use two forks to shred the meat, otherwise, chop it with a sharp knife.

Pour two cups of the pan juices, plus any solids (minus bay leaves), into a sauce pan. Puree with a stick blender. Add the remaining peaches and their juice and the brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for fifteen minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir chopped meat into the sauce. If you are using a huge shoulder, like we did, save some of the meat for other uses, like pasta sauce.

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Thursday, June 01, 2017

Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament 2017

It's that time again - time for the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament!

This season brings a new venue that we're pretty excited about - Points South Latin Kitchen in Fells Point. It's one of our favorite restaurants, so we know that not only will the competition be exciting but the food available for purchase during the matches will be top notch.

The chefs competing this time around come from all over the area:
James Patton, Admiral Fell Inn
Jacob Nelson, Black Eyed Suzie’s
Jonathan Hicks, Cosima
Joel Young, Hudson Coastal
Brigitte Bledsoe, Miss Shirley’s CafĂ©
Kitty Ashi, Monsoon Siam
Francois Giovanni Merle, Personal Chef, 2016 Mason Dixon Master Chef Champion
Niko Negas, Roasthouse Pub
Shamarie James, Roland Park Place
Darius Jones, Simply Exquisite
Lanydrek Christ Pandzou, SoBe Restaurant
Damon Hersh, The Inn at Brookville Farms
Terence Tomlin, Upscale Dining Experience
Greg Mason, White Oak Tavern

To see their initial match-ups,. check out

The competition starts this coming Monday June 5th and runs Mondays and Tuesdays for the next 8 weeks.

Tickets for most matches are $45 per person and include a wine tasting by Boordy Vineyards, passed hors d'oeuvres, the competition, dessert, and coffee. Plus, this year, ALL tickets are "Judging Experience" tickets, meaning that all guests can taste each dish produced by the chefs and be part of the voting to decide the winner.

A portion of the proceeds goes to the very worthy Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself some tickets and hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Feastival 2017

Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Back in the day, kids diagnosed with CF were not expected to reach elementary school age, but over the past few decades, treatment breakthroughs have increased the life expectancy of a person with CF to about 40. That's still far too young.

You can make a difference to these folks by donating to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the world's leader in the search for a cure. Donate the normal way, by sending funds directly to the CFF, or attend Baltimore's second annual Feastival event and enjoy fine food and drink at the same time. Win/win.

The event will take place on Saturday afternoon, June 17th, at Harbor East’s waterfront promenade. Feastival unites some of Baltimore’s hottest culinary talent, with chefs from Azumi, Blue Pit BBQ, Cask & Grain, Clavel, Colette, Gnocco, Gunther & Co., Loch Bar, Wit & Wisdom participating. Guests will feast on delectable bites while sipping stylish cocktails and local craft brews while the enjoy the views along Baltimore’s harbor.

Proceeds from Feastival directly benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the world’s leader in the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis. The Foundation funds more CF research than any other organization and nearly every CF drug available today was made possible because of Foundation support. This is a historic time in the fight against cystic fibrosis. Promising therapies that treat the underlying cause of CF, rather than just the symptoms, are in late-stage clinical trials. If successful, these drugs could change the face of the disease and the prognosis of those who suffer from CF.

June 17, 2017
12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Harbor East’s Waterfront Promenade (Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore)
200 International Drive, Baltimore, MD 21202
Tickets: $125 or Two for $200

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Monday, May 29, 2017

La Cuchara

It took us a while to get to La Cuchara. I can't explain exactly why, it just did. And now that we've gone, we want to go back again and again (and we have, several times).

La Cuchara features cuisine inspired by the Basque people living in northern France and southern Spain. Not French food, and not Spanish food (although maybe a bit closer to the latter), Basque food is its own thing. And why don't we have more of it in our area? Beats me. In any case, it's just the kind of stuff I like to eat - lots of small plates, lots of wine, terrific bread.

The menu changes constantly, so what you see here is pretty much guaranteed not to be available when you go. Sorry about that. The photos are mostly to show that the food is as gorgeous as it is delicious, like the Charred Octopus, Sweet Corn, Refrito de Chorizo shown above. The octopus had a nice charred flavor, tender, with a pleasant chew, and corn kernels added a nice pop of texture. There were also some of the succulents known as sea beans (or salicornia, or sea asparagus) on the plate to add a saline crunch. And see how gorgeous?

The poached oysters on a raft of pumpernickel toast (I adore their pumpernickel bread) in a sea of bright red tomato sofrito were perfect. The shellfish just barely cooked and still quite tender. We've also had two very different spins on the now ubiquitous kale salad, one massaged with a pistachio vinaigrette and served with sweet corn and cucumber, the other with bacon and bleu cheese.

We like to sit at the bar, even when it's not Happy Hour. Happy Hour is ridiculous. Pintxos, or small one or two bite dishes, which normally cost a huge $2 are half price, as are all the "primeros," or appetizer-sized plates. The spread of pintxos above cost a whopping $7 at Happy Hour and included sardines, smoked oysters with celery root puree, a jamon croquette, half an amazing veal tongue sandwich, a gilda (anchovy/olive/pepper skewer), charred cabbage Salvitxada, and marinated eggplant.

A gilda.

Here's a closeup of that lamb tongue bocadillo. It was like the most tender pastrami ever. Insane at $2 ($1 at HH!)

Another bocadillo, this one made with meltingly tender pork.

Here are some fried oysters with artichoke veloute. Mr Minx thought they were the most perfect fried oysters he's ever eaten.

We also tried some patatas bravas, a pretty typical tapas dish.

We also sampled some brunch items, like the crispy chicken torta with preserved lemon mayo. You'll never want a tiny fast food biscuit with a chicken nugget in it ever again once you taste these.

The only thing we haven't experienced at La Cuchara is an entree. I'm sure they're delicious, but they are not as budget-friendly as everything else on the menu. In any case, the older I get, the less-interested I am in entree-sized portions of anything. Suffice it to say that we've loved everything we've eaten at La Cuchara and regret not getting there sooner.

La Cuchara
3600 Clipper Mill Rd
Baltimore, MD 21211
(443) 708-3838

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Flashback Friday - Crab cakes

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on July 14, 2014.

Sometimes dinner time is like an episode of Chopped. I look in the fridge and find a celery root, and on the counter are a pint of grape tomatoes and two ripe avocados. There's meat from 7 nicely-sized crabs as well, a leftover bonus after the crab feast we had the day before. Now how do I incorporate these things into something delicious?

I suppose it wasn't all that difficult. Not like I also had to use Chopped-style speed bumps like pop rocks or canned peaches (although we do have those in the house). I briefly thought I could stuff the avocado with crab salad, but I really felt like crab cakes. (:::feeling self::: yup - definitely crab cakes.) And don't get me wrong, I love Old Bay, but I think I might like Phillip's seafood seasoning even more. It's less, um, distinctive than Old Bay, and therefore allows the sweet flavor of crab to shine through while still tasting like seafood seasoning.

The celery root became celeri remoulade. Here's the recipe I usually use, adapted from Joel Robuchon. Because classic French is how I roll. (So untrue.) Unfortunately, I didn't have cornichons on hand, but since I was using the remoulade as a substitute for cole slaw to go with crab cakes, I squirted in a little Dijon. Hey, it worked great. Didn't even miss the wee sour pickles. The avocado was mashed with a bit of lemon juice and salt, and the tomatoes were quartered and lightly pickled in a bit of rice wine vinegar, green Tabasco, and pinches of sugar and salt.

The combination was nice. The avocado was rich, the tomatoes bright, the crab cakes luscious, and the celeri remoulade added a lot of texture. Would have made a nice sandwich, too.

Crab Cakes, a la Phillips, by way of theminx

1 teaspoon Phillips Seafood Seasoning
1 egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoon prepared mustard
12 ounces blue crab meat, picked over for shells
Panko breadcrumbs

Combine all ingredients except crab and panko in a large bowl. Fold in the crab meat, then add enough panko to hold the mixture together (1/4 cup or so). Refrigerate the mixture for at least one hour to firm it up.

When ready to cook, form the mixture into 4 cakes. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil (I used extra virgin olive oil) in a large frying pan over high heat. Gently add the cakes and turn the temperature down a bit. Cook on both sides until nicely golden brown.

Serve with your favorite accompaniments.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Ghetto Toffee Ice Cream

Earlier in the year, I made a cake using flavored tea that I bought on sale from David's Tea. I still have several varieties left from the cute star-shaped gift set and I've decided I'll probably use a few of them to make ice cream this spring and summer. Yes, ice cream. Tea infused milk or cream makes a lovely ice cream with barely any effort--I normally have to heat the cream anyway, so why not let some tea leaves hang around in it for an hour or so before I proceed?

And so it went this particular weekend that after I selected English Toffee flavored tea to make my ice cream base, I decided I also wanted to make some ghetto toffee. For completely unrelated reasons. A friend had sent me a video for a matzo toffee sometime before Passover, which put it in my mind. This matzo toffee was left unbaked, instead the caramel was cooked for a longer time. I suppose it was tasty enough, but I prefer a baked version. Not only do the saltines (or matzo, if you prefer) get toasted in the oven, but also the caramel gets a chance to ooze around to the bottom of the crackers and coat that side, too. So the toffee is tasty on both sides. You can choose your method; I've included the one I prefer within the recipe below.

So...toffee ice cream. Ghetto toffee. Seemed to me they needed to become one. So I broke up some of the toffee and layered it in the finished ice cream. It's maybe a bit more difficult to scoop, but the end result is very good. The crackers don't get soft in the ice cream, so there's plenty of great texture between them and the nuts and the thin layer of chocolate. I think this ice cream is a winner, and I hope you do, too.

If you can't find English Toffee flavored tea (though several companies, including Celestial Seasonings, do produce it), use a chocolate or caramel flavor instead.

Ghetto Toffee Ice Cream

For the toffee:
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
40 saltines (1 sleeve)
6 ounces chocolate chips
Walnuts or nuts of your choice, chopped

For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons loose English toffee-flavored tea, preferable David's Tea
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon corn starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cream cheese

To make the toffee. Preheat oven to 400°.

Cover a large rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Lay out the crackers in one layer, making sure they are touching.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the crackers. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly. Place pan into the oven and bake for 5 minutes.

Remove pan to a rack. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips. Wait a minute or so to allow the chocolate to melt, the use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the crackers. Sprinkle with nuts.

Allow the chocolate to dry completely before breaking up into pieces.

To make the ice cream: Put the milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and tea in a large sauce pot and cook over medium high heat until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges but the milk does not boil. Turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow to steep for 30 minutes to an hour.

Strain out the tea. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the milk mixture and return the rest to the pot. Mix the 2 tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until smooth. Prepare a shallow ice bath: in a large bowl or baking pan, place an inch or two of cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside.

Bring the milk tea mixture to a boil and boil for 4 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't boil over (stir when it starts to expand), remove from heat, and slowly whisk in the slurry. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Blend a few tablespoons of hot milk mixture into the cream cheese to loosen it, then pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan of milk. Whisk well until smooth. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid and place the container into the ice bath until cool, ensuring that the water level doesn't come up as far as the lid. When the mixture seems mostly cool, refrigerate until completely cold.

Place ice cream mixture into an ice cream machine and proceed according to manufacturers instructions.

Scoop some of the ice cream into a freezer container. Sprinkle with a layer of the toffee, adding additional nuts if desired. Repeat ice cream and toffee layers twice more. Put a layer of waxed paper over the top of the ice cream and put on the lid. Freeze until desired texture.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

A New Tide Rolls in for By The Docks

We took my mom to By the Docks in Middle River for her birthday in 2006. It was our first time there and, after re-reading the Minx's blog post about the restaurant, I see we weren't blown away by the place. Except for the crab cakes, that is. Three of us ordered them and were stunned by the softball-sized mounds sitting on our plates. The Minx and I always planned to go back, but with all the new restaurants that popped up over the last 11 years, we just never got around to it.

As it turned out, By the Docks has gone through some changes over the years, with the original owners selling in 2010 and then buying the place back in 2015. They've recently remodeled the 19th century building and revamped the menu. We were invited to come by and check out the changes, and we were more than happy to comply.

Our group started with a couple of appetizers for the table. The oysters Rockefeller uses three kinds of cheese which are folded into the spinach before being placed atop the oysters. Their own imperial sauce is also dolloped on top, making for a very rich bite that is almost a meal unto itself.

We've talked about calamari a great deal on this blog, and it's heartening to find that the quality of the preparation has been steadily improving over the years. Even with that said, I think this might be the best fried calamari I've ever eaten. The fresh calamari is first marinated in Greek olive oil for 24 hours, then hand cut into rings slightly larger than what I've typically seen, They're lightly coated and flash fried so the calamari is incredibly tender. The crunchy coating is nicely seasoned so you don't need marinara sauce, but it is provided on the side. (Diners can also choose to have their calamari tossed in an Asian-style sweet and spicy sauce.)

For her entree, the Minx ordered the Jewels of the Sea: the colossal jumbo lump crab cake they are so well known for along with a 4-ounce lobster tail, jumbo shrimp, and broiled scallops. The crab cakes have little filler and are very light on the Old Bay, so the sweet crab flavor comes through. As if this wasn't enough food, each entree comes with two sides, in our case, baked potatoes and creamed spinach.

I went for the Rockfish a la Vasca: pan-seared rockfish sauteed with shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, calamari, and Jonah crab claws in a traditional Spanish green sauce of fresh parsley, garlic, and wine. The chef is originally from Spain and he sees this as sort of a paella of seafood without the rice. The green sauce is something I'd never had before, and the sheer quantity of seafood is overwhelming. When I read the description of the dish, I expected a couple of shrimp, one scallop, a couple clams, etc. As you can see from the picture, it's an orgy of shellfish piled so bounteously that you can't even see the rockfish underneath (which was delicious, by the way).

Other diners during this media event tried the stuffed lobster tail and were presented with a mountain of broiled crab meat, like the crab cake but even bigger, with a 9-ounce lobster tail hiding underneath. Portions are truly incredible here.

Of course, it's not all seafood. While it's the star, there are also plenty of chicken, steak, and pasta entrees, and sandwiches like oyster po' boys, Reubens, and burgers.

Even though we had to get boxes for our leftovers, we couldn't leave without trying a couple of their desserts, made by Yia Yia's Bakery. Turns out, the family that owns By the Docks also owns Yia Yia's, where we have been getting yummy holiday pies for years. Their baklava cheesecake has all the elements one typically finds in the Greek pastry, with a rich layer of creamy cheesecake in the middle. A great combination of two classic desserts.

The Smith Island cake is everything the traditional dessert should be with thin layers of white sponge glued together by rich, fudge-like frosting. As full as I was, I couldn't stop eating this dessert.

In addition to their regular menu offered every night of the week, By The Docks offers specials Monday through Thursday like Monday Lobster Night where you can get twin lobsters for $28.99 or Thursday Steak Night where all cuts are just $19.99, They also offer a $17.99 brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. We're quite confident we won't wait another 11 years to go back to By The Docks.

By the Docks
3321 Eastern Blvd
Middle River, MD 21220-2811

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